Dateline: June 24th, 2008
This report is the first in a series of reports to examine the costs that extreme inequality place on the rest of us.
As Americans prepare to pay extra for checked bags, wait in long lines, and endure crowded commercial flights this summer, super-wealthy private jet owners are enjoying tax breaks and luxury at the public’s expense. “High Flyers” exposes the impacts of private aviation on the air traffic system, carbon emissions, and everyday travelers.
According to the report, the last decade has seen an unprecedented explosion in private jet travel in the United States. Between 2003 and 2007 alone, annual worldwide sales of private jets more than doubled to $19.4 billion.
“The super-wealthy, private jet-set are shifting the costs of their high-flying indulgence on to the rest of us,” said report co-author Robert Weissman, director of Essential Action. “They pollute more than commercial flight passengers, but don’t pay. They don’t pay a fair share of their air traffic control costs. And they have manipulated the tax code so we all subsidize the cost of private jet purchases.”
According to the report, private jet travelers pay lower taxes and fees than ordinary commercial travelers, even though this elite transport burns five times more carbon than commercial airplanes. This year, the private jet lobby won another special tax break for purchasers of new aircraft as part of the 2008 Economic Stimulus Act. Experts predict this won’t actually help jumpstart the economy, and could worsen global warming.
Private flyers are not subject to the security rules that apply to commercial travelers, a risk the Department of Homeland Security acknowledges hasn’t been addressed almost seven years after 9/11.
The High Flyers report criticizes government inaction to rein in gas-guzzling, sky-crowding private jets, and the super-wealthy High Flyers who dodge security restrictions, carbon costs, and taxes.
“The rapid expansion in private jet travel has paralleled the growing inequality of income and wealth in our country. In the last twenty years, most of the growth in income and assets has flowed up to the wealthiest one percent of households – and within that, the top one-tenth of one percent,” the report says. “The expansion of private jet travel is symptomatic of these extreme inequalities…Inequalities that need to be remedied if we are to rebuild an economy that works for working Americans.”
The report recommends imposing a “luxury tax” on private jets and fixing the FAA’s funding structure to require private jets to pay their share of costs. The authors call on Congress to tighten security requirements on private jets. The report suggests government subsidies spent on fixing small airports that largely serve private jets would be better invested in high-speed rail as an alternative to short-haul air travel.
To link to a downloadable copy of our High Flyer report, CLICK HERE